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26026: (news) Chamberlain: Aristide party threatens to boycott Haiti poll (fwd)
From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>
By Joseph Guyler Delva
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Aug 22 (Reuters) - The party of ousted Haitian
president Jean-Bertrand Aristide said on Monday it would boycott elections
later this year if a parish priest it views as its likely presidential
candidate is not released from jail.
Gerald Gilles, a leader of a moderate faction of Haiti's leading
opposition party, the Lavalas Family, said Father Gerard Jean-Juste was the
most popular figure in the party. Jean-Juste was jailed a month ago by the
interim Haitian government in connection with the murder of a journalist.
"After several consultations, the masses that we represent and the
base of the party claim Father Jean-Juste as their presidential candidate.
So he will be our candidate," Gilles told Reuters.
"We say loud and clear (that) we'll boycott the elections if
Jean-Juste, and many other political prisoners that are potential
candidates for our party, are not released."
Jean-Juste, a fiery orator who has also lived in the United States and
is well known in Miami for defending Haitian immigrants' rights, has not
indicated if he would run in the elections scheduled for later this year to
restore democracy to the poor Caribbean country.
The priest has instead insisted that Aristide be allowed to return
before Lavalas take part in the elections. Aristide, himself a former
priest, was ousted in February 2004 after an armed revolt and amid
accusations of corruption and despotism.
Haiti has been torn by continuing political and criminal violence
since Aristide's ouster, despite the presence of more than 7,000
Brazilian-led U.N. troops and international police.
Jean-Juste was arrested on July 21 on allegations he had played a role
in the kidnapping and the killing on July 14 of journalist Jacques Roche.
The priest has rejected the accusations and said he was in Miami when
the crime was committed. Like other senior Lavalas figures who have been
put in prison by the interim government of Prime Minister Gerard Latortue,
Jean-Juste says the accusations are politically motivated.
Gilles and other leaders of a moderate wing of Lavalas angered many
party supporters when they registered Lavalas for the elections, scheduled
But party officials said they had made an effort to unify Lavalas and
the decision by moderates to designate Jean-Juste as their likely
presidential candidate was welcomed by more radical members. The United
Nations has also urged Lavalas to participate in the election.